Desbarats

Penokean Hills Buy into Local Abattoir

Cattle grazing at Applehill Farm.
Cattle grazing at Applehill Farm.
photo by: Elaine Samis
In a deal finalized Friday, April 17th, Penokean Hills Farms purchased a majority of shares in the Desbarats abattoir, Northern Quality Meats.

Penokean Hills Farms is a group of family operated farms located throughout Northeastern Ontario, near Thessalon, Iron Bridge, Echo Bay, Sudbury and Dowling. The group of farmers joined together in 2005 to collectively market and sell their high quality, locally produced meat to consumers.

Penokean Hills had been using Northern Quality for their lamb, and sending their beef and pork to the Birch Lake abattoir in Massey, but ran up against capacity issues there, according to Will Samis of Penokean Hills. “We saw Northern Quality was in a bad situation and struggling to hang on. It was an opportunity for us to invest in an abattoir closer to current production, that’s important to the community, and try to turn things around.”

Samis is co-owner of Applehill Farm near Iron Bridge, with his wife Elaine. He was one of the original shareholders in NQM and is on its board of directors. “There have been many good people involved in Northern Quality Meats over the years, who have put in time and money to keep the abattoir alive. “But it’s a complicated business, taking meat from farms and getting it to people, says Will, and when you’re also facing low prices for beef, like they have in the past decade, it’s very difficult for a small abattoir to stay afloat.”

Penokean Hills Farms booth at Mill Market.
Penokean Hills Farms booth at Mill Market.

Although Penokean Hills Farms are now majority shareholders, the facility is managed by the Board of Northern Quality Meats, on which Penokean Hills Farms has significant representation.

NQM is actively seeking full-time employees for meat cutting, managing and marketing at the plant. Penokean Hills and Northern Quality have a working arrangement with VG Meats of southern Ontario. Together they have explored the needs of local farmers and will be training staff to help improve the cutting facility.

Although Penokean Hills Farms main focus is on beef, they support the board of NQM, in continuing with the current services offered, including the poultry processing.

The new shareholders have taken on a lot with this purchase, but hope to resolve the issues and focus on all aspects of the business, over the next six months.